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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Avalanche kills three near Washington’s Colchuck Lake

An avalanche killed three backcountry travelers on Colchuck Peak on Sunday.

Six backcountry travelers were caught by the slide on the 8,705-foot peak near Leavenworth, Washington, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. One member was buried and injured while three others are believed to be dead. Rescue efforts are ongoing, according to the avalanche center. However, worsening snow weather and snow conditions have prevented rescuers from retrieving the three bodies as of Wednesday.

The Seattle Times reported Tuesday that the group was climbing a couloir on the peak when an avalanche occurred catching four of the climbers and flushing them 500 feet down the gully. Police told the Seattle Times they believe two died instantly from the avalanche and the third died shortly after. The fourth victim was injured but was able to hike out.

The victims are a 53-year-old man from Connecticut, a 60-year-old woman from New York and a 66-year-old man from New Jersey, according to the Seattle Times. A 56-year-old man from New York was injured but survived.

Avalanche danger was high above treeline, considerable at treeline and moderate below treeline in the Colchuck area, according to Sunday’s forecast.

“Expect a heads up day, and very dangerous conditions to develop at upper elevations near the crest with strong wind and new snow,” the Sunday forecast stated. “If heading to these areas, create extra space between you and runout zones from avalanche paths, as large slides may run naturally. You may find wet loose avalanche danger at lower elevations with snow turning to rain during the day.”

The deaths are the first for Washington during the 2022-23 season and bring the total nationwide to 9. In 2014, six people were killed in a likely avalanche while climbing Mount Rainier. In Idaho, three were killed in an avalanche at Silver Mountain Ski resort in 2020. On average , about 27 Americans die in avalanches every year.

This story will be updated.